Without U.S. host companies, our fellowship and internship programs would not be possible.
The Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program is very lucky to be able to work with a number of outstanding organizations, such as DevTech Systems, Inc. Each organization plays an important role in providing meaningful professional experiences in the American workplace for participants that they can then apply to their respective fields once they return to their home countries.
Last summer, I sat down with Megan Gavin, Ph.D., Social Scientist at DevTech Systems Inc., to talk about her experience working with not one, but two Muskie interns. As their supervisor, Megan said the experience was mutually beneficial because it was an opportunity to exchange ideas.
DevTech Systems, Inc. is an international development consulting firm that focuses on providing technical assistance to government, private-sector, and civil-society stakeholders in over 100 countries. Muazzam Toshmatova and Takhminakhon (Takhmina) Rakhmatova had the opportunity to work for this organization this past summer. Both participants saw this internship as an important step toward achieving their future career goals.
“DevTech has actually been very fortunate, because we haven’t had just one Muskie intern, we’ve had two,” said Megan. “This has afforded us the opportunity to, I guess, in some ways have two data points in terms of what it is like to work with a Muskie scholar.”
Pulling from their previous experience in Tajikistan at organizations such as the United Nations Development Program and Mercy Corps, Muazzam and Takhmina had the opportunity to make real contributions to DevTech’s work:
“One of the interns has engaged in work on an analytic brief. Actually, it’s a concept note that focuses on remittances and how remittances are affecting youth. She also has provided very valuable support to one of our projects selecting indicators, developing a work plan and just doing some background research on a country to which you are probably familiar with, Afghanistan. She’s done some very important work. And the other Muskie intern has engaged in some data collection advice, planning some data, doing data analysis and engaging in conversations with senior researchers here at DevTech.”
Megan was also able to observe and encourage the participants to get out of the office to add to their U.S. experience. “They engage in activities after work with our colleagues, they take advantage of Washington, D.C.,” said Megan. “As their supervisor, I always encourage them to go to some of the events even if they happen during business hours here in Washington, because my perception is that it is part of the exchange program.”
Beyond the practical experience gained by the Muskie interns, Megan said she was able to learn from the interns themselves and the experience overall was impressive based on their level of professionalism.
“As a supervisor, I have learned a great deal. We meet every week and we talk about what the plan is for our workload. I’ve also asked them to review things that I have written and they’ve provided critique and feedback. As an organization, we also benefitted from the exchange. I found them to be very professional, on time. Whatever your definition is of professionalism, they exceed it.”
Every exchange program should be a two-way exchange, with everyone involved learning from one another. Megan emphasized this in her reflection on the program.
“I do want to reiterate again that the way that I perceive the relationship with the Muskie program is really of exchange, that it is mutually beneficial for both us as the host organization and also, it’s our responsibility to the Muskie interns for it to be rewarding for them, because we know that we are getting the best and the brightest of Tajikistan in this case, and we have to take advantage of that.”
As one of the core pillars of the Muskie program, the exchange of ideas can open new doors to new discoveries and innovation that sharpen critical thinking skills and stimulate creativity. Special thanks to Megan Gavin and everyone at DevTech Systems, Inc. for being a part of the inaugural year of the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program.